Is giving stuff up for Lent a Catholic thing? Or do other Christian faiths do it too?

(58 Posts)
Jacksmania Tue 21-Feb-12 00:16:55

Just curious. Does anyone know?

And what's everyone giving up for Lent?

What are you meant to give up, anyway? And why are you meant to give anything up? It's all over FB what everyone is giving up and it's things like chocolate, meat, or sarcasm in one case grin - just wondering if that's really the spirit of the whole thing?

(More questions will no doubt pop up in JM's fertile brain.)

notpodd Tue 21-Feb-12 06:59:27

<gasps in surprise due to being in a religion post>

Disclaimer This is coming from a place of ignorance. I am neither Catholic nor Christian, but went to a Catholic school.

I thought it was a Catholic thing - and I remember clearly at school having drilled down our throats that Lent is about suffering, just as Christ as suffered, and acknowledging that one is a sinner and Christ died to save you. Giving up a vice is not so much the point, its not supposed to be an opportunity for self improvement (because lots of the girls would give up chocolate in hope of losing weight). You are supposed to sacrifice something you will really miss, and if it allows you to save money you should give that money to charity. So sarcasm isn't really in the full spirit of things either and would make ones posts rather boring I think the chocolate thing comes from kids, as when you are little the concept of Lent is quite tricky and is introduced at Sunday school with the giving up of sweets and chocolate.

<skulks off, hoping she doesn't offend any proper Catholics with this post>

LoonyRationalist Tue 21-Feb-12 10:46:18

No I don't think it is just catholics - many christians observe lent I think.

I was explaining lent to dd1 (because she was asking about pancake day) She decided to give up arts and crafts (which she really loves). I intervened because she spends half her time making little books and crafts; I would not know what to do with her if she gave them up; so she decided to give up avocados instead (dd1 hates avocados!!) Not quite as much of a sacrifice but much better for my sanity!

Kaloobear Tue 21-Feb-12 10:50:05

Anglicans do too. Though they don't get Sundays off and Catholics do. (I think.)

Hi Jacks I found it!
I was brought up RC but am now Anglican. Both give up stuff for Kent, although my church also advocates taking up new things for Lent, such as daily bible reading or helping out a neighbour.
I gave up cheese one year, chocolate another, and tea another, alcohol too. Tea was definitely the worst, I had a 2 day headachesad

People give things up as a form of fasting. The reasoning is that you forsake your other "idols" to concentrate on God more in the weeks leading up to Easter.
Pancake day was a way of using up perishable foods before fasting.
I knew someone from a very evangelical church who gave up food for lent shock! He lost about a stone, but his health really suffered.

startail Tue 21-Feb-12 12:19:58

My CofE PIL did.
variously, chocolate, alcohol and I think DMIL gave up coffee.

The best on I've ever managed was giving up using the lifts at university. Since I'm the least punctual person on the planet it was very good for me. I had to be much more organised to ensure I didn't arrive in a puffing heap with everyone watching.

startail Tue 21-Feb-12 12:21:31

Looking at the clock and the amount of things that need doing I think I ought to give up MN!

HallelujahHeisBorntoMary Tue 21-Feb-12 13:28:14

Whats wrong with giving up sarcasm? grin I'm doing it to try to re-educate my brain into not looking to make fun of people or situations, to watch what I say before I speak, and hence I think its a good thing. Its also not that easy!

Jacksmania Tue 21-Feb-12 14:30:01

Well Mary, your post made me think about giving up raising my voice when I'm aggravated with DS so I really thank you for the thought and honestly admire the spirit behind it.
It also made me grin so thanks for the giggle!

MarynotBeSarcastic Tue 21-Feb-12 15:13:14

grin, I've written an article for our village magazine about giving up sarcasm, so hopefully it'll make a few more people giggle. And YOUR thread inspired me to change to a new name for Lent grin

harrietspy Mon 11-Feb-13 14:23:16

I'm giving up screens, i.e. all internet and television (except for a bit of strictly ringfenced email time each day). I did it last year. It was hard and brilliant. I wanted to be more mindful of my behaviour and not just automatically go online or watch telly when I feel crap/stressed/sad/lonely/anxious/bored.

The side effects were great: I got more work done, was more organised, read books, went to bed earlier, was more focused on my dc...

I go to a very liberal C of E church that accommodates people like me who think that faith is more about mystery than certainty. I like rituals. Abstinence in Lent makes more space in my head. Lent isn't about suffering for me, just putting to one side things that can be 'false refuges'.

My C of E vicar friend says that Anglicans do get Sundays off (although I prefer not to do that).

Empress77 Mon 11-Feb-13 14:27:41

definitely not just catholics, and its not meant to be about suffering but a time for contemplation. smile

I'm C of E. I'm giving up bread this year. It makes me think - harriet's description is good.
I don't take Sundays off.

crescentmoon Mon 11-Feb-13 14:33:05

I think lent is harder in a way because you give something up for the whole 40 days - give or take 3 Sunday's? 4 Sunday's? As a Muslim the Ramadan fast is abstinence in the day then gorge yourself that night- I just stumble along knowing come sunset that day I can have what I like. Easier than giving up sugar for the whole month entirely!

eminemmerdale Mon 11-Feb-13 14:41:35

I don't have any religion but always try to give something up for Lent - just as a way of proving my own strength. Have also persuaded the dc to give up things they like - to show them that sometimes it is possible to live a life without being able to have everything they want on tap, as it were. <dd7's idea of giving up 'mulligatawny', which she had seen written down and had no idea what it was did need some working on though>

niminypiminy Mon 11-Feb-13 15:36:57
KenDoddsDadsDog Mon 11-Feb-13 15:41:57

It's a Christian thing. But at my Catholic school we were taught to try to do a good deed instead every day which I like a bit better.

Gingerdodger Mon 11-Feb-13 15:48:05

I know loads of people who give things up for lent who are neither catholic or religious in any way but see it as an incentive to cut something out.

Personally like the idea of doing something rather than giving up, although last year I gave up buying something I love and donated the money I would have spent. I also try and make sure I give time to working through some Lent readings.

crescentmoon Mon 11-Feb-13 15:50:23

watched that video through niminy it was really nice i didnt know much. 40 days is very significant to us as well - keep a good deed up for 40 days and it is then seen to have become a habit and part of one's personality. but very hard to make it to for 40 days straight in the first place!

niminypiminy Mon 11-Feb-13 16:14:44

Agree crescentmoon! I think Ramadan must be very hard - especially when it's in summer and the days are long - but it must be really special that all Muslims are doing this at the same time -- you are part of a community which in turn is part of a much bigger community, all brought together by fasting, praying and breaking your fast together.

Northey Mon 11-Feb-13 16:27:08

I wonder where this "having Sundays off" thing has come from. It's certainly not something that was known in my (quite extended) Catholic community when I was young. Or even in my more limited catholic community now. But I've recently heard a few (non-Catholic) people saying that Catholics get Sundays off. Any Catholics here who actually do this??

CaffeineAndKeyboards Mon 11-Feb-13 16:34:22

I'm CofE and add things in rather than give a food up as I've had ( and probably still have) an eating disorder and I'll end up obsessing which will be good for nothing. Learnt by experience there!

CaffeineAndKeyboards Mon 11-Feb-13 16:36:14

All Sundays are supposed to be a celebration of the Resurrection which is why the Sundays off thing. But I know nothing RC specific.

Moominsarehippos Mon 11-Feb-13 16:36:49

Yup CofE thing over here too! I've never heard of Sundays 'off' though. I like the thought of that!

Moominsarehippos Mon 11-Feb-13 16:38:12

Countdown to Wednesday then...

What are we giving up then? Mumsnet?

wigglesrock Mon 11-Feb-13 16:45:11

I'm a catholic and I've never heard of the Sunday day off smile Although I do break it for St Patrick's Day and my Mum has always had a day off at Mothers Day. From when I was at school 30 years ago we were always encouraged to go on something rather than give something up. My kids are working on their teeth brushing!

niminypiminy Mon 11-Feb-13 16:51:06

Having Mothering Sunday as a break from fasting has a basis in tradition. In fact, that Sunday is sometimes known as Respite Sunday -- ie a day's respite from your Lenten fast.

KarenHL Mon 11-Feb-13 16:54:07

I am a Baptist, and usually give up something for Lent - it's not something that has come up in services or from leadership, just something I felt I wanted to do. A couple of years ago DH & I fasted for Lent, which meant we didn't eat from sun up, to sundown. I did allow myself drinks of water though (it was hot that year, I was working shifts outside, & would have been ill otherwise).

Having said that, Lent can be as easy or as challenging as you decide - one friend gave up listening to music last year. I couldn't have done that. Giving up something you don't really like in the first place isn't really the point. It's meant to be a sacrifice, even if it's only a small one. If you're not religious, or wanting/willing to try something different spiritually, why bother?

Lent is only 40 days, but this only works out if you give yourself Sunday off. I think that was partly because in Mediaeval times the sabbath was seen as a feast day (and most people would't have had much during the week).

In the past I've given up chocolate, sugar in my drinks/on cereal (& I can't think of the others, I have a cold which is giving me a fuzzy head). That was before I knew Lent didn't have to cover Sundays!

Last year, I used the 40acts website, which focussed more on doing something for the 40 days (and thinking), rather than on sacrificing something. I hadn't tried that before and it was interesting. Got me doing things that I might otherwise not have thought of. This year, we're doing a family Lent resource that I downloaded from Currclick. It does have more of a religious focus than 40acts, but believe it will get us thinking about some topics as a family.

niminypiminy Mon 11-Feb-13 16:57:28

Christian Aid's Count Your Blessings focuses on being thankful for what we have at the same time as giving to help those who have less -- they also have an app you can download: Count your blessings

KenDoddsDadsDog Mon 11-Feb-13 17:08:34

Have never heard of Sundays off at all. Bizarre.
We all did a day of Ramadan this summer as a charity day with a couple of colleagues. It was so difficult not being able to drink anything.

crescentmoon Mon 11-Feb-13 17:50:27

I really liked that about the video niminy that it talked about the values and lessons of Lent. And it's community orientation aspect also- I didn't know that about charity giving either.
I saw a thread recently about someone giving up mumsnet for lent I thought that even that would be extremely hard. I totally get and admire the sentiments of turning away from other idols/distractions and focusing on God.

MechanicalTheatre Mon 11-Feb-13 18:00:13

I'm nominally Church of Scotland and we never gave up anything for Lent. I never even heard of it til I moved out of super-prod land.

DandyDan Mon 11-Feb-13 19:41:28

Lent is 40 days.
It is only 40 days because you don't count the Sundays.
Otherwise it would be 46/7 days.

So, whether you are Catholic or Methodist or Baptist or C of E, or any kind of Christian who gives stuff up/takes stuff on for Lent, your Lent should last 40 days. You should not do your Lenten thing on a Sunday.

Sundays are a Feast Day - the Resurrection Day, the day of rest from the chores of the week. Sunday should not be treated as a day of penance and fasting and Lenten discipline. So the Lenten fast really should be broken on that day, for the other 40 days to make sense.

Otherwise your Lent will last longer than 40 days.

sashh Tue 12-Feb-13 05:53:29

I thought it was an RC thing, until I worked at a college where half the staff gave up something for lent.

I have a couple of relatives who give up alcohol. One was shocked when she was told the money saved should be given to charity.

I thought the Sundays off were if you are doing the whole thing, giving up meat, eggs, sugar etc. but on Sunday you could have meat/eggs.


Some Jewish fasts are 25 hours, I think that has got to be hard. There was a TV programme a couple of years ago where non Muslims went to stay with Muslims during Ramadan and attempted to fast.

Chubfuddler Tue 12-Feb-13 06:21:14

What dandydan said about Sundays. If you don't lent would have an extra week.

I'm giving up chocolate. It will help with the weight loss. I did think about giving up alcohol but with the stress in my life right now there's no way I could.

Aftereightsarenolongermine Tue 12-Feb-13 06:32:17

I'm Greek Orthodox & we don't eat meat/fish/dairy/eggs for 40 days & no olive oil. There may be other things that are banned but I can't remember. On some of the days some of the above is allowed I always check with my dsil who is far more informed than myself. I just get the dcs to give up 1 thing that they like.

I was a vegan for years so the only thing I gave up was the oil. I'm fully fledged eating omnivore now but find banning the above quite hard as I get older.

KenDoddsDadsDog Tue 12-Feb-13 07:02:03

Well, blow me down. Sundays off. Mint. My Catholic education has failed me grin

Northey Tue 12-Feb-13 07:03:48

I don't think the point of Lent is to do exactly 40 days and no more...

KenDoddsDadsDog Tue 12-Feb-13 07:09:38

Yes I do know that before you go all catsbumface.

Northey Tue 12-Feb-13 07:22:01

I didn't meant you, kddg smile And I didn't mean to be catsbumface. I just wonder how Sunday off-ers kind of perceive the spirit of it, really.

KenDoddsDadsDog Tue 12-Feb-13 07:28:00

Sorry blush not very Christian of me.

DS3 is planning to do 40 acts of kindness, one for each day.

DD (8) wants to stop sucking her thumb in Lent.

DS1 suggested having a 40 day break from Minecraft, but I'd rather he made a commitment to use antiperspirant every day.

DS2 has decided he is going to stop fiddling with his genitals in front of other people.

Wishihadabs Tue 12-Feb-13 07:31:59

DH and I give up booze the dcs give up soft drinks. I was brought up catholic but more generic Christian now (we attend C of E church at the end of the road). For me it is an exercise in self discilpline . We also save money (£80 ish) which we give to charity and lose a couple of pounds.Not sure about Sunday's off, I only drink at the weekend anyway. I think I will do the whole6 weeks.

Northey Tue 12-Feb-13 07:37:44

Nor me, kddd - I did express it in a bit of a bumface way.

Elenio Tue 12-Feb-13 07:40:02

Greek Orthodox here too (struggling one!) and we also have lent. I find that a lot of people in Greece tend to not give up meat, oil ect for the while 40 days but only for Holy week prior to Easter. Many people do still fast for the whole 40 days.

Elenio Tue 12-Feb-13 07:41:40

Sorry for typos! Stupid phone

KenDoddsDadsDog Tue 12-Feb-13 07:56:17

Threebee grin some top ones in there.

Colyngbourne Tue 12-Feb-13 09:05:07

Sundays-off are not "Sundays-off because it's easier that way". It's "Sunday-off" because that is actually how Lent was set up by the Church - to remember the 40 days in the desert, but also to acknowledge that we should as Christians never fast on a Sunday - that it is totally wrong to treat the Sunday as a day of penance like any other in the week. That's why Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, because it is "40 days of penitential days, plus the Feast-Days of Sunday, to Easter". To do Lenten practice on the Sunday is both numerically incorrect and (IMO) theologically wrong. Each Sunday is a mini-version of Easter.

And the spirit of Lent? Well, it's not a religious version of a New Year resolution. It's not meant to be a practice that you adopt primarily as a thing to improve yourself (though as a secondary reason, it's perfectly good) and so it's not meant to be a practice that you feel you have to do non-stop by including the Feast-Sundays.

I think it's more to do with a re-focusing, and stopping doing things that maybe take away some of our time and energy and ability to look inward and prepare for what Holy Week and Easter will bring. It is time spent coming closer by God - and self-denial of various kinds can assist in this.

Northey Tue 12-Feb-13 09:33:17

Ah, that's really interesting colyngbourne, the theological side, I mean.

I suppose because I think of it as time not just for improvement through denial for denial's sake, but through things like renewed and positive attempts to act more kindly towards certain people, it is hard to get my head round having a day away from that. But actually am I doing it "wrong" and should I actually be aiming for denial after all?

moonbells Tue 12-Feb-13 10:30:32

I am C of E and have been trying (with varying success) to give up something for Lent for over 20 years. The very first time I did it, I gave up sugar in coffee. I never needed to use it after that. Sadly every time I give up chocolate, it doesn't have the same effect!

Best one I have done is to go vegetarian. It's not as hard as it once was, but it's better for the planet to be veggie (eating grains directly rather than feeding them first to a cow) and also reminds me (the spiritual aspect) that there are folk out there who don't eat meat because they simply can't afford it or it's not available due to environment. That is food for thought (and prayer).

Sadly I like (sustainable) fish too much for being veggie all the time! This year I'm on the 5/2 diet and will try and do the fast days as veggie.

harrietspy Tue 12-Feb-13 10:41:11

northey, you're right - it would be perverse to give up a positive behaviour!

I completely understand about feast days, but I'm not trying to observe Lenten ritual as it was originally established by the church. My Lent practice (giving up telly & internet) isn't about penance, it's about making space for more reflection and authentic connection. I love that the word 'lent' comes from the OE 'lencten' which referred to spring, or the coming of longer days. Lent can be about turning away from the dark and leaning into the light. Doing it for more than 40 days might not be orthodox, but I'm ok with that.

Knowsabitabouteducation Tue 12-Feb-13 19:37:08

I am Anglican and practise Lent.

I give up something difficult for me and give the money saved as almsgiving.

I also take up special devotions each year, by joining a pop-up home group with other church family.

I have Sundays off as Sunday is always a celebration day.

Our church is really supportive with Lent. We always have a Lent Project which is the beneficiary of our almsgiving. It's made accessible to everyone by not being too big (those who can handle big can organise themselves). This year, we are doing 'Sandwiches for Lent'. Although this takes place on a Sunday, the idea is to have Sunday lunch with other families (especially new families to church), and then to serve up just sandwiches instead of the usual roast. We get to build relationships within our church family, save a fortune on food, and a lot of stress for the cook.

I work with a couple of church-going Catholics who are giving up chocolate and make a fuss about the hardship (they haven't read the bit in the Sermon on the Mount about fasting, obviously). Honestly, how much hardship is this for women in their 40s and 50s? They have not moved on from age 8, which doesn't say a lot for their spiritual maturity.

Aftereightsarenolongermine Tue 12-Feb-13 21:32:24

I'm actually struggling with what to give up this year. I don't eat gluten & don't really eat cakes or biscuits. I rarely drink alcohol due to medication I not that keen on chocolate anymore, & I don't eat nuts & crisps...

Dcs suggested tea but since that's my only real 'vice' I'm not sure if I can. Any ideas gratefully received.

banterbus Tue 12-Feb-13 22:20:47

I was raised a Roman Catholic, went to an RC primary and secondary, went to church every week... and only at the age of 24 did I find out that Sundays don't count?!

I'm giving up chocolate and coca cola!

MikeOxardAndWellard Tue 12-Feb-13 22:33:40

Orthodox too <waves>

Lutherans too.

GreyGardens Tue 12-Feb-13 22:37:03

DD attends C of E school, where they do practice Lent. She has announced she is giving up whingeing or maybe being angry (because she does quite enjoy it). She is 6 smile.

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